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Conservatives twist Dr. King’s words to push their agenda

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
As President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamila Harris traverse the country these days trying to reenergize their once considerable Black voter support, conservative Republicans, once again, are doing all they can to counter those efforts by attempting to tell African Americans what civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. “really stood for.”

“Today is the day when Republicans quote MLK and pretend he would be all for voter ID laws,” quipped “Machine Pun Kelly” Scaletta on “X,” formerly known as Twitter, on King Day, January 2023, noting how Republicans religiously quote from Dr. King’s 1963 speech “…I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

Observers like Scaletta then note how those same Republican conservatives would brazenly work to curtail voting rights for African Americans, the very issue Dr. King gave his life for.

Without question there are voices who do not buy into Dr. King’s dream of human diversity, equity and inclusion. Instead, these politically conservative voices insist that Dr. King was a strong proponent of what they represent, namely the destruction of all things that represent diversity, equity and inclusion.

These conservatives misinterpret Dr. King’s message of brotherhood as one of “colorblindness” - the deliberate ignorance of a person’s ethnicity, gender or sexual preference.

According to Andre Archie, a Black conservative author and professor at Colorado State University, the “cult” of diversity, equity and inclusion “…has harmed society and is contrary to the vision of America’s greatest civil rights leaders…”

But the pure definition of “blind” or “blindness” means you cannot see, do not see, or refuse to see.

What Dr. King dreamed of was an America that would one day be a nation that not only saw racial, gender and sexual preference differences, but respected them, allowing “…little White girls and little Black boys to hold hands as sisters and brothers.”

Most of Dr. King’s followers would agree that you cannot respect something or someone you cannot see. Nor can you build meaningful relationships between human beings of different backgrounds if you refuse to respect them for who or what they are.

“[Dr. King’s] ‘I Have a Dream’ speech proscribes a powerful hope for righting injustices facing children today: creating a world where people are not color blind, but color kind.” wrote author Colin Seale in his January, 2020 Forbes Magazine article, “MLK’s ‘I Have a Dream’ Speech and Rejecting Colorblindness for Today’s Children.”

Seale continued, “Dr. King’s line about not judging his children ‘by the color of their skin but by the content of their character’ is too often shamefully applied to argue against affirmative action or any race-based remedy to historical injustice. But the ‘I Have a Dream’ speech itself contradicts this in his bold call for fighting the fight ‘until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.’” Moreover, his public views before and after his speech included …social reforms for African Americans similar to the G.I. Bill, and a call for “massive” reparations that were bold, but “less expensive than any computation based on two centuries of unpaid wages and accumulated interest.”

Seale notes that author Ibram X. Kendi says that “the opposite of racist isn’t ‘not racist.’ It is anti-racist.”

By Dr. King’s philosophy, fighting racism with laws, common purpose and equal justice are the keys to building a just society. But to hear conservatives tell it, there is no racism to fight, unless they define it, and enlist the aid of Black conservatives to address it.

So when it comes to police brutality, educational inequity, poor health care and housing, and poverty, “righteous” Americans should be not just be colorblind, but be blind to those things, conservative Republicans say.

And they prefer that we all be blind to the color of human beings affected too.

That certainly wasn’t what Dr. King ever said or meant.

“I believe that wounded justice, lying prostrate on the blood-flowing streets of our nations, can be lifted from this dust of shame to reign supreme among the children of men,” King said in 1964 upon accepting his Nobel Peace Prize.

“I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality and freedom for their spirits.”

“This MLK Day,” writes Daily Beast columnist Ernest Owens, “… Republicans could start putting some respect on Dr. King’s name by respecting his ideas. Failing that, they should keep his name out of their mouths.”